Book Talks

Book Talks 2019-2020

BookTalks are designed to give UM faculty with a humanities focus an opportunity to share thir recently published books with the community.  Faculty generally present on their research and take questions from the audience.   

All BookTalks take place at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134.  Space is available on a first-come-first-serve basis.  As Books & Books and its dining facility remains open duing the talk, we encourage those with hearing difficulties to sit in the front row. 

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  • September: Joanna Johnson

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 8:00 PM

    Joanna Johnson

    Director of Writing, Department of English
    University of Miami

    Topographies of Caribbean Writing, Race, and the British Countryside

    The essence of Britain, and especially England, is popularly thought to be its countryside, standing in for the “real” England, the “unchanging” England -- a bucolic and pastoral idyll where, as St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott observes, “poets, naturalists, novelists have harrowed and hallowed it for centuries with their furrowing pens as steadily as its yeoman once did with the plough.”

    How, then, do Caribbean writers such as Walcott, growing up as they did with a colonial education, where Wordsworth’s daffodils and Gray’s “lowing herd” were seared onto their imaginations  – even becoming the stuff of nightmares for some -- navigate this already idealized and mythologized landscape once they see it and write about it as adults themselves? 

    In this talk, Johnson will discuss how (Anglo) Caribbean writers Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Grace Nichols, Andrea Levy, and Caryl Phillips have very different and unexpected responses to this mythologized landscape.  Their writing shows greater complexity and wider significance than accounts and understandings of the British countryside have traditionally admitted.  Nevertheless, ambiguity remains an essential part of these authors’ relationships with the British countrysides of their colonial or postcolonial imaginations, raising questions about issues of belonging, Britishness, and Commonwealth identity.

    Joanna Johnson, Ph.D., is the Director of Writing in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Miami (UM), for which she directs the undergraduate academic writing curriculum as well as providing grant and other writing support for faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students in all disciplines university-wide.  Johnson has been involved with the UM writing program – which includes writing centers at all three UM campuses --for eighteen years, and has been its director for the last seven. Johnson has contributed to writing texts including Composing Inquiry: Methods and Readings for Investigation and Writing (2009) and published articles in edited collections on spatial approaches to literature, writing and geography (Geocritical Explorations: Space, Place, and Mapping in Literary and Cultural Studies, ed. Robert Tally, 2011; The Caribbean Short Story: Critical Perspectives, eds. Evans, McWatt, Smith, 2011), as well as the recently published single-authored book, Topographies of Caribbean Writing, Race, and the British Countryside (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019).  Her publication and research interests also include rhetoric and health, scientific and engineering communication, and writing in other STEM disciplines.  She regularly contributes to the responsible conduct of research (RCR) training for graduates and post-doctoral fellows at UM.

  • October: Ot├ívio Bueno

    Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 8:00 PM

    Otávio Bueno

    Professor and Chair of Philosophy
    University of Miami


    Applying Mathematics: Immersion, Inference, Interpretation 


    How is that when scientists need some piece of mathematics through which to frame their theory, it is there to hand? What has been called 'the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics' sets a challenge for philosophers. Some have responded to that challenge by arguing that mathematics is essentially anthropocentric in character, whereas others have pointed to the range of structures that mathematics offers. Otavio Bueno and Steven French offer a middle way, which focuses on the moves that have to be made in both the mathematics and the relevant physics in order to bring the two into appropriate relation. This relation can be captured via the inferential conception of the applicability of mathematics, which is formulated in terms of immersion, inference, and interpretation. In particular, the roles of idealisations and of surplus structure in science and mathematics respectively are brought to the fore and captured via an approach to models and theories that emphasize the partiality of the available information: the partial structures approach. The discussion as a whole is grounded in a number of case studies drawn from the history of quantum physics, and extended to contest recent claims that the explanatory role of certain mathematical structures in scientific practice supports a realist attitude towards them. The overall conclusion is that the effectiveness of mathematics does not seem unreasonable at all once close attention is paid to how it is actually applied in practice.

    Otávio Bueno is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Miami and Cooper Senior Scholar in Arts and Sciences. He has held visiting professorships or fellowships at Princeton University, University of York (UK), University of Leeds, and the University of São Paulo. His research focuses on philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophical logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of art. He has published over 200 papers in specialized journals and collections, and is the author of Applying Mathematics: Immersion, Inference, Interpretation (with Steven French; Oxford University Press, 2018), editor of Individuation, Process, and Scientific Practices (with Ruey-Lin Chen and Melinda Fagan; Oxford University Press, 2018), among many other books. He is editor in chief of Synthese.

  • November: William Rothman

    Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at 8:00 PM

    William Rothman 

    Professor of Cinema and Interactive Media
    University of Miami

    Tuitions and Intuitions: Essays at the Intersection of Film Criticism and Philosophy


    William Rothman has long been considered one of the seminal figures in the field of film-philosophy. From his landmark book, Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze, now in its second edition, to the essays collected here in Tuitions and Intuitions, Rothman has been guided by two intuitions: first, that his kind of film criticism is philosophy; and second, that such a marriage of criticism and philosophy has an essential part to play in the serious study of film. In this book, he aspires, borrowing a formulation from Emerson, to “pay the tuition” for these intuitions.

    Thoughtful, philosophically sophisticated, and provocative, the essays included here address a wide range of films, including classical Hollywood movies; the work of “auteur” directors like Alfred Hitchcock, George Cukor, Yasujirō Ozu, and Woody Allen; performances by John Barrymore and James Stewart; unconventional works by Jean Genet, Chantal Akerman, Terrence Malick, and the Dardenne brothers; the television series Justified; and documentaries by Jean Rouch, Ross McElwee, and Robert Gardner. All the essays address questions of philosophical significance and, taken together, manifest Rothman’s lifelong commitment when writing about a film, to respect the film’s own ideas; to remain open to the film’s ways of expressing its ideas; and to let the film help teach him how to view it, how to think about it, and how to discover what he has at heart to say about it.

    William Rothman is Professor of Cinema and Interactive Media at the University of Miami. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University, where he taught for many years. His other books include Hitchcock: The Murderous GazeThe “I” of the CameraDocumentary Film ClassicsReading Cavell’s The World ViewedMust We Kill the Thing We Love? and the forthcoming Jean Rouch en tant qu'artiste de cinéma. He is the editor of Cavell on Film, Jean Rouch: A Celebration of Life and Film and Three Documentary Filmmakers, co-editor of Looking with Robert Gardner, and founding editor of the Harvard Film Studies and Cambridge Studies in Film series.

  • December: Alexandra Perisic

    Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 8:00 PM

    Alexandra Perisic

    Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures
    University of Miami

    Precarious Crossings: Immigration, Neoliberalism, and the Atlantic


    With global debt, labor, and environmental crises on the rise, the precarious position of people in the Global South has become a significant force moving people across countries, continents, and around the world. Through a comparative study of contemporary trans-Atlantic immigrant narratives in French, Spanish, and English, Precarious Crossings: Immigration, Neoliberalism, and the Atlantic offers an account of a multilingual Atlantic under neoliberalism. More specifically, the book examines how contemporary authors from the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America—including Roberto Bolaño, Giannina Braschi, Maryse Condé, Fatou Diome, Marie Ndiaye, and Caryl Phillips, among others—have reconceptualized the Atlantic from a triangular space into a multipolar one, introducing new destinations for contemporary immigrants and establishing new Atlantic connections. In traveling beyond the postcolonial route that connects former colonizer and former colonized, these authors also shift their focus from cultural difference and national belonging to precarity—a condition characterized by a lack of economic and social stability and protection—as a shared characteristic under global neoliberalization. Perisic demonstrates how contemporary Atlantic narratives reveal the contradictions inherent in neoliberalism as an ideology—thereby showing how they further participate in Atlantic literary and cultural dialogues and push against literary conventions of various genres as they explore the complexities of a globalized Atlantic.

    Alexandra Perisic is Assistant Professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures department. Her teaching and research interests include contemporary Francophone literature of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, literatures of the Black Atlantic, and theories of globalization. Her articles have appeared in various prominent journals, including Francosphères, Research in African Literatures, and The Comparatist.

  • January: Catherine Newell

    Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 8:00 PM

    Catherine Newell

    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
    University of Miami

    Destined for the Stars: Faith, the Future, and America's Final Frontier 


    Where did humanity get the idea that outer space is a frontier waiting to be explored? Destined for the Stars unravels the popularization of the science of space exploration in America between 1944 and 1955, arguing that the success of the US space program was due not to technological or economic superiority, but was sustained by a culture that had long believed it was called by God to settle new frontiers and prepare for the inevitable end of time and God’s final judgment. Religious forces, Newell finds, were in no small way responsible for the crescendo of support for and interest in space exploration in the early 1950s, well before Project Mercury—the United States’ first human spaceflight program—began in 1959. In this remarkable history, Newell explores the connection between the art of Chesley Bonestell—the father of modern space art whose paintings drew inspiration from depictions of the American West—and the popularity of that art in Cold War America; Bonestell’s working partnership with science writer and rocket expert Willy Ley; and Ley and Bonestell’s relationship with Wernher von Braun, father of both the V-2 missile and the Saturn V rocket, whose millennial conviction that God wanted humankind to leave Earth and explore other planets animated his life’s work. Together, they inspired a technological and scientific faith that awoke a deep-seated belief in a sense of divine destiny to reach the heavens. The origins of their quest, Newell concludes, had less to do with the Cold War strife commonly associated with the space race and everything to do with the religious culture that contributed to the invention of space as the final frontier.

    Catherine L. Newell is a scholar of the conjoined histories of religion and science, who is particularly interested in how scientific paradigms frequently owe their genesis to a religious idea or spiritual belief. Her first book, titled Destined for the Stars: Faith, the Future, and the Final Frontier (University of Pittsburgh Press), traces post-World War II American zeal for space exploration back to 19th-century religious discourse surrounding belief in American manifest destiny. The volume focuses on the artists, historians, and scientists who popularized space exploration by framing the conquest of the “final frontier” as a modern religio-cultural legacy of the conquest of the American West, and considers the future of space exploration in light of these popularizers’ insights into the uniqueness and fragility of our own planet.  In addition, she has published articles and book chapters on dystopic science fiction and nature religion; the spiritual origins of vegetarianism in America; and how Biblical injunctions to “rule over the Earth” still inflect debates about environmental science and management in the 21st-century.

  • February: Silvia Mitchell

    Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 8:00 PM

    Silvia Mitchell

    Assistant Professor of History

    Purdue University

    Queen, Mother, & Stateswoman: Mariana of Austria and the Government of Spain


    Queen, Mother, and Stateswoman is the first study of Mariana of Austria (1634–1696), who ruled the Spanish Empire while her son Carlos II, was a minor. Based on extensive archival evidence, Mitchell demonstrates that Mariana employed successful political, diplomatic, and military strategies at a difficult juncture for the Spanish global monarchy in the later seventeenth century. The book establishes Mariana’s influence on European international politics and reveals the extensive authority she wielded as a Spanish Habsburg queen and mother, even during her court exile.   

    Silvia Z. Mitchell specializes in early modern European history with a particular focus on the history of the Spanish Monarchy in the later seventeenth century (1665–1700) from national and international perspectives. Fascinated by queenship as a history of female political power and the influence of royal courts on political, cultural, and diplomatic history, Mitchell emphasizes the role of women of the royal House of Habsburg in shaping European international politics.   Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Professor Mitchell completed all her academic training in the U.S., first at Florida International University, where she received a B.A. (2001) and M.A. (2006); and then at the University of Miami, where she was awarded the Ph.D. (2013). She joined the Department of History at Purdue University in 2013, where she teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses on early modern European history. In 2019, she received the Jon C. Teaford Faculty Award for excellence in teaching history and was the 2017 and 2018 History Department nominee for the Purdue University Early Career Teaching Award.

  • March: Jennifer Ferriss-Hill


    Due to travel restrictions, this event has been postponed to the 2020-21 academic year.  Please check back for additional details. 


    Jennifer Ferriss-Hill

    Associate Professor of Classics
    University of Miami

    Horace's Ars Poetica: Family, Friendship, and the Art of Living


    For two millennia, the "Ars Poetica" (Art of Poetry), the 476-line literary treatise in verse with which Horace closed his career, has served as a paradigmatic manual for writers. Rarely has it been considered as a poem in its own right, or else it has been disparaged as a great poet's baffling outlier. Here, Jennifer Ferriss-Hill for the first time fully reintegrates the "Ars Poetica" into Horace's oeuvre, reading the poem as a coherent, complete, and exceptional literary artifact intimately linked with the larger themes pervading his work.

    Arguing that the poem can be interpreted as a manual on how to live masquerading as a handbook on poetry, Ferriss-Hill traces its key themes to show that they extend beyond poetry to encompass friendship, laughter, intergenerational relationships, and human endeavor. If the poem is read for how it expresses itself, moreover, it emerges as an exemplum of art in which judicious repetitions of words and ideas join disparate parts into a seamless whole that nevertheless lends itself to being remade upon every reading.

    Establishing the "Ars Poetica" as a logical evolution of Horace's work, this book promises to inspire a long overdue reconsideration of a hugely influential yet misunderstood poem.

    Jennifer Ferriss-Hill holds an A.B. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is associate professor of classics and senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami. She works on Ancient Greek and Latin poetry, in particular Augustan poetry, Roman Satire, and Greek Old Comedy, and she has also published on Catullus and Varro. Her first book, Roman Satire and the Old Comic Tradition, was published with Cambridge University Press (2015) and received the 2016 First Book Award from the Classical Association of the Middle-West and South.

  • April: Berit Brogaard

    Wednesday, April 15, 2020 at 8:00 PM

    Berit Brogaard

    Professor of Philosophy
    University of Miami

    Seeing and Saying: The Language of Perception and the Representational View of Experience


    Imagine you are sitting at Starbucks, glancing at the blue coffee mug in front of you. The mug is blue on the outside, white on the inside. It's large for a mug. And it's nearly full of freshly made coffee. In the envisaged case, you see all those aspects of the scene in front of you, but it remains a question of ferocious debate whether the visual experience that makes up your seeing is a direct "perceptual" relation between you and your environment or a psychology state that has a content that represents the mug. If your experience involves an external "perceptual" relation to an external, mind-independent object, it is unlike familiar mental states such as belief and desire states, which are widely considered psychological states with a representational content that stands between you and the external world. Your belief that the coffee mug in front of you is blue has a content that represents the coffee mug as being blue. Your desire that the coffee in the mug is still hot has a content that represents a state of affairs that may or may not in fact obtain, namely the state of affairs that the coffee in the mug is still hot. 

    In this book, Brit Brogaard defends the view that visual experience is like belief in having a representational content. Her defense differs from most previous defenses of this view in that it begins by looking at the language of ordinary speech. She provides a linguistic analysis of what we say when we say that things look a certain way or that the world appears to us to be a certain way. She then argues that this analysis can be used to argue for the view that visual experience has a representation content that mediates between you and the world when you visually perceive.

    Berit “Brit” Brogaard is Professor of Philosophy at University of Miami. Her areas of research include philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and cognitive science. She is the author of the books Transient Truths (Oxford University Press, 2012), On Romantic Love (Oxford University Press, 2015), The Superhuman Mind (Penguin, 2015), and Seeing & Saying (Oxford University Press, 2018).